This creamy corn and roasted poblano soup recipe marries sweet summer corn and spicy roasted peppers to make an earthy, slightly smoky bowl of comforting goodness. It’s our go-to late summer soup.
Adapted Vishwesh Bhatt | I Am From Here | W.W. Norton, 2022
Whether in the American Southwest or Gujarat, corn and chiles are a match made in heaven. This soup is easy and delicious proof.
It uses the whole cob for a deep corn flavor. Serve it in the late summer or early fall, when corn and chiles are at their peak. Look for fresh corn with plump, juicy kernels and bright, shiny chiles without wrinkles.
Serve as a main course or with roasted tomato grilled cheese for lunch, or as a first course for dinner. If you want the soup to be vegetarian-friendly, simply omit the bacon.–Vishwesh Bhatt
Corn and Roasted Poblano Soup FAQs
What’s with hype with Hatch chiles?
Hatch chiles are kinda like the champagne of peppers. A true Hatch chile is grown in Hatch, New Mexico, which is said to be the only place folks should source these special peppers due to the notion that the area has the best terroir in the entire world for them… much like the Champagne region of France is the best place on earth for Champagne grapes.
They’re a very versatile pepper and have a lovely balance of heat and sweetness, and the season is relatively short. It’s possible to order fresh Hatch chiles online or to purchase dried or canned versions, and you can check out Where Can I Buy Hatch Chiles for more details. Or, you can just use poblano or Anaheim chiles.
How do I know when peppers are fresh?
Peppers of any kind should be firm and glossy, with no blemishes or soft spots. As peppers start to age, they get squishy and wrinkled and at that point should be tossed.
Can corn chowder be frozen?
Yes, it can. Freezing corn chowder is simple and while doing so won’t affect the taste of the soup, you may notice some slight changes in the consistency if your recipe includes dairy (like this one does).
How hot are poblano peppers?
Poblano peppers are mildly spicy, ranking at 1000 to 1500 on the Scoville scale, which is similar to Anaheim peppers. Hatch chiles can be found as mild, medium, or hot, and can range anywhere from 2000 to 8000 units on the Scoville scale.
Can I make this with frozen or canned corn?
We recommend you stick with fresh corn for this particular recipe. The corn cobs are used to make the broth, which adds an incredible depth of flavor to this corn and poblano soup.
Corn and Roasted Poblano Soup
- 8 large ears corn husks and silk removed, and kernels cut off (about 6 cups), cobs reserved
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves stems reserved
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves stems reserved
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 gallon water
- 4 medium poblano or Hatch chiles
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- 4 tablespoons (2 oz) unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup chopped bacon (optional)
- 1 small (about 1 cup) yellow or white onion diced
- 4 garlic cloves thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 2 ounces goat cheese crumbled
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
- Lime wedges for garnish
- Place the corn cobs, rosemary stems, thyme stems, peppercorns, and bay leaves in a large stockpot and cover with 1 gallon water. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook for 30 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a gentle boil.
- Remove the pot from the heat. When cool enough to handle, strain and discard the solids. You will have 12 to 13 cups of corn stock.
- To roast the poblanos, turn the flame of a gas stovetop (or grill) to medium-high. Using tongs and an oven mitt, hold one pepper directly over the flame, turning until it is charred on all sides, about 15 minutes. Repeat with the remaining peppers. (Alternatively, you can roast the peppers under the oven broiler. Watch them carefully and turn with tongs as each side chars.)
- Once the peppers are charred all the way around, carefully transfer them to a plastic bag or a bowl covered with plastic wrap. Allow them to sit for about 10 minutes. The resulting steam and heat will finish cooking the peppers and make the skin easier to peel.
- When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel off the blistered skin. Dice the peppers, discarding the seeds and stems.
- Meanwhile, in a small skillet over medium heat, toast the cumin seeds, shaking the pan gently so that the seeds toast evenly and do not burn, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and, when cool enough to handle, grind in a spice grinder or coffee grinder, or with a mortar and pestle.
- In a Dutch oven or wide heavy pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the bacon, if using, and cook, stirring often, until it starts to render and crisp, about 4 minutes.
- Stir in the onion and garlic. Cover and cook until the onion becomes translucent, 3 to 5 minutes, reducing the heat if the garlic begins to brown. Add the corn kernels, cover, and cook for 5 minutes more.
- Toss in the poblanos, rosemary leaves, and thyme leaves, and pour over enough corn stock to cover everything by 1/2 to 1 inch (12 to 24 mm). This should be between 8 and 10 cups. Turn the heat up to medium-high and bring to a simmer. When the mixture simmers, lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the corn is very soft, 10 to 15 minutes.
☞TESTER TIP: Store any unused stock, covered, in the refrigerator. Use the stock to cook grits for breakfast the next morning.
- Remove the pot from the heat and purée the soup with a hand-held immersion blender. (If you do not have an immersion blender, you can purée the soup in batches in a regular blender. When blending hot liquids, take care not to overfill the blender.)
- Strain the puréed soup through a fine-mesh strainer to remove the tough corn skins. (If you don’t have a mesh strainer, you can skip this step. The soup will taste just as good; it just won’t be as smooth.)
- Return the soup to the heat and add the cumin, salt, paprika, goat cheese, and cream. Stir until the cheese is melted and fully incorporated. Taste and adjust for seasonings as desired.
- Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with chopped cilantro and a wedge of lime.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Making this corn and chile soup out of season with not even remotely local sweet corn and a cup of Hatch green chiles (medium) from a jar, my expectations were low, but I adore green chiles in any form.
While the recipe could be a project, the stock cooks up in only 30 minutes, and using the jar of chiles allowed me to skip two steps.
The soup was too sweet when tasted after the goat cheese/cream mixture was added, but a generous squeeze of lime fixed that. The green chiles added a nice heat in the back of my throat without being too spicy on the tongue, which is useful when making this for a mixed heat-tolerant crowd. The level of cumin was just right, but the bacon left only a slightly smokey backdrop, so after the first round of tastings, I fried up the rest of the package and crumbled a bit on top of each bowl with more crumbled goat cheese, plenty of lime, cilantro, and chives.
Since I cannot wait for the five minutes of Hatch green chile season when they are shipped to northern Illinois, making this soup with a jar of them is a very good second best.
This is a great summertime soup. Just about all the ingredients can be sourced locally and are readily available throughout the summer and early fall. The finished soup will have wonderful layers of flavor from the corn, the peppers, the herbs, and the bacon (optional, but I highly recommend including, unless you are going for a vegetarian dish.)
For the final step, I strained half of the soup after pureeing it with an immersion blender and found that quite a bit of pulp (and I believe some of the flavor) was being strained out leaving the consistency of the soup quite thin. I then used my Vitamix for the other half of the soup which turned out smooth and silky and didn’t need straining. It all came together to form a perfectly substantial soup of just the right consistency – not heavy like a chowder but not thin like a broth.
Lots of steps to make this, but definitely worth the effort! My yield was 3 1/2 quarts, so after cooling down a bit I froze two quarts for future use and placed 1 1/2 quarts in the fridge that the two of us enjoyed for dinner (with a nice piece of homemade filone, drizzled with a bit of top-quality extra virgin olive oil. Leftovers were held for lunch with a small salad the next day.
Originally published August 17, 2022
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
This corn and roasted poblano soup is the essence of summertime! The flavor achieved by making stock from the corn cobs is fabulous. Even with cutting corn off the cob and making stock it was still finished in an hour and ready to serve.
The most forward flavor is that wonderful sweetcorn along with a nuttiness from the toasted cumin seeds. I did use bacon in mine and think that smokiness added a lot to the soup. I’m sure it depends on your peppers, but I used the poblanos and it was not spicy at all.
I initially wondered about the goat cheese. Why not cotija with these southwestern flavors? However the tang of the goat cheese along with that fresh pop of lime juice was just right. I believe this is hearty enough, especially if you use bacon, for a light summer course.
I served this as a starter and served with homemade chicken tamales (needed to use those corn husks!) with either chili verde or red pork chile sauce. And, let me just say that reheated leftover soup poured over a leftover tamale was reason enough to make this again. An accidental winning combo!
I did not strain my soup totally as we like a little texture. Instead, I made several passes with a large sieve through the pot, squeezed out all the goodness then discarded.